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Artificial Intelligence in e-Discovery: Explaining, Describing, and Defending What is Beyond our Field of Vision

Matthew Vargo

Artificial intelligence can incite some serious tension. The type of tension akin to booking a long-awaited vacation—the expensive one; or buying a house; or sitting in an ice cream parlor and declaring “make it a double!” to finally abandon that awful 4-month diet of kale and kale alone at the behest of your self-care (and your doctor).

Embarking on moments like these, you ask: “Is this my life? Is this possible?” It’s the type of excited terror you feel leading up to, and immediately following, a decision to break new ground. “So what happens next?”

As popular culture echoes this same feeling across industries and media channels, we asked some of our top partners to give us their take on artificial intelligence in e-discovery. Interestingly, we found a quartet of common themes woven among them:

  1. People both misunderstand and fear artificial intelligence.
  2. There are tangible benefits—and a lot of value—in using artificial intelligence.
  3. Education helps, and showing people (rather than telling) is second to none.
  4. Attitudes are changing.

We asked ChatGPT the same questions, and the resulting insights were eerily similar to our human experts’.

People both misunderstand and fear artificial intelligence.

“To many practitioners, AI is a black box with an initial apprehension to its use,” notes Darren Bui, solutions architect at PLUSnxt.

This sentiment is expanded by Sean Lynch, director of client strategic – legal services at Ricoh Canada, when he says: “AI is a tool with huge potential, but essentially it is a reflection of the human decisions and judgments that create the AI model.”

Marla Crawford, general counsel at Cimplifi, says they’ve found clients are reluctant to use AI “because of the fear of relying solely on the computer to give answers to important questions.”

We heard similar sentiments from other partners, such as Lineal’s CCO & GC Jeanne Somma, who observes clients “fear that AI is meant to replace legal thinking and process.”

ChatGPT’s input: “We often run into misconceptions from clients who fear that AI will replace human judgment entirely.”

There are tangible benefits—and a lot of value—in using artificial intelligence.

“We find that the use of AI in e-discovery empowers our clients to make more informed decisions in their document review without sacrificing time or accuracy,” states Drew Goletz, national director of sales, e-discovery and forensics, at Avalon. (He's not alone, and I encourage you to read more about all the benefits and opportunities that come from embracing AI.)

A 2023 AI Visionary, Daniel Gold, notes that “leveraging AI tools allows lawyers to streamline mundane tasks and address issues of law.”

Ben Sexton, VP of e-discovery and analytics at JND eDiscovery, takes this focus on streamlining mundane tasks to its natural conclusion when he states that AI can “defensibly reduce review populations, cut review costs, and relax the pressure on tight production deadlines.”

Similarly, Lia Majid, CEO at Acorn Legal Solutions and another 2023 AI Visionary, shares that her team has “seen great success with AI, including cases where the smoking gun or hot document for deposition prep has been found from reviewing less than 10 percent of the document set.”

ChatGPT’s input: “We see AI as a tool that can augment and enhance human expertise, enabling our clients to perform tasks with greater speed, efficiency, and accuracy.

Education helps, and showing people (rather than telling) is second to none.

“The challenge,” notes Andy Cosgrove, chief strategy officer at TCDI, “is not to convince clients that AI can bring insight and efficiency.” It’s easy to understand there are benefits to artificial intelligence. Instead, the challenge, he says, is “to gain comfort explaining, describing, and defending that which is beyond our ‘field of vision.’”

There’s a common trope among writers: “show, don’t tell.” While the trope is meant to encourage writers away from using exposition to fill in major plot points, our partners are adopting similar thought processes when helping clients understand the benefits of AI: show them how it’s done. As Danny Diette, director of analytics and data privacy at CDS, says, “the most important piece of the educational process is a demonstration of the software's capabilities on a live case with real data.”

Jeanne Somma from Lineal also notes that “it's essential to provide clients with concrete examples of how AI can augment and enhance their work rather than replace them.”

ChatGPT’s input: “To overcome these doubts, we focus on educating clients about the specific ways in which AI can enhance their workflows, and we provide them with tangible examples of how it has delivered positive results in similar cases.”

Attitudes are changing.

“Limited understanding of use cases can often be a barrier to adoption or expanded use of AI tools,” says Jon Foster, an advisory managing director for Deloitte’s Transactions and Business Analytics LLP. “Often, our role as advisors is to educate and help clients understand the full potential of AI tools within their organization—and, in doing so, they can transition from AI ‘skeptics’ to AI ‘champions.’”

Danny Diette at CDS also says: “often within 30 minutes, the most skeptical client’s doubts can be overcome, and we leave our clients ready to embrace AI as a valuable tool in their search and review process.”

Or, as Darren Bui from PLUSnxt says: “we use an AI workflow as the standard in every case.”

As the process of education, demonstrating value, and technology adoption continue, we begin to see a world where AI won’t be so terrifying. Instead of being for “special cases,” it’ll be a “fundamental tool to drive insights and efficiencies across all matters,” as Andy Cosgrove of TCDI states.

Graphics for this article were created by Natalie Andrews.

Developing Responsible AI Solutions for e-Discovery and Investigation

Matthew Vargo is a product marketing specialist at Relativity, where he's been advocating for customers in diverse capacities since 2016.